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When a conspiracy theory destroys marital relationships

When a conspiracy theory destroys marital relationships

The QAnon movement was created around an anonymous person who claims to work within the US government, called “Q.” Starting in late 2017, this person began sending mysterious messages on chat rooms, which his followers tried to decode. Interpretations of the messages were often contradictory and the few clear expectations were never fulfilled.

At the heart of these followers' beliefs: governments will be secretly run by a pedophile, cannibalistic elite, which Donald Trump has been working to combat. This belief has spawned a movement whose followers share a strong sense of belonging, but which is often viewed externally as an illusionary theory.

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Q stopped writing after Trump's defeat in November 2020, but the movement continued to exist and spawned groups in other countries. But the researchers noted in the study that the extremism of these followers and their tendency toward polarization works against them. I've been reading the Reddit channel dedicated to QAnon victims for a long time, says Lauren MasteronI'm from the University of Derby in England, and it was the testimonies of these people that led me to this research. She and her colleague met 15 people, including 10 women, between the ages of 21 and 54, and from 5 countries, including the United States and Canada. the study It was published in April on Journal of Social and Personal Relations.

All of them reported a change in personal relationships with their spouses after adhering to this conspiracy theory, but above all, there was a change in their behavior: an increase in anger, paranoia and intolerance, which often led to racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic statements. “It's amazing to hear what she has to say and what she believes in,” one interviewee said of her ex-partner.

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Increasing distance is also a recurring theme: the other person's extremism prompts their partner to limit conversations as much as possible to avoid conflicts, or to develop a feeling of helplessness in the face of the impossibility of maintaining a constructive dialogue.

Relatives drawn to QAnon become defensive when presented with differing opinions and will, at best, reject any credible source of information or, at worst, turn any effort at rational discussion into a confrontation involving blame and accusations.

Attempts at rapprochement to save the relationship between spouses are described as frustrating, and the only solution mentioned is to avoid any discussion of all conflicting topics.

“Those interviewed discovered that their QAnon-believing wives often acted on their beliefs in ways that hurt their relationship, either by proselytizing or saying things that were not rooted in the reality of QAnon beliefs, or by using increased hate speech,” the researcher writes.

The two researchers don't claim to have a solution either: the limitations of their study (based only on interviews, a relatively small group) point instead to the need to deepen this research to better understand the impact it has on interpersonal relationships, and these beliefs are reinforced by social networks.